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On the taking of advice

Earlier this week my daughter Grace came to stay for a couple of nights because she is currently attending three day’s worth of lectures etc. in central London for would-be solicitors – this in slightly strange circumstances for two quite different reasons.

Firstly, she originally took the exams not long after the 2008/2009 financial crash – somehow then going ‘from zero to hero’ in twelve months, having obtained two degrees in other subjects before deciding to switch to the law, and ended up with a 2:1.

She then tried and failed to find articles (the other piece in the solicitor-qualifying jigsaw): sadly, it wasn’t just that at the time law firms generally weren’t interested in taking on staff, in fact in some cases they were giving article clerks that they’d already engaged in principle £10,000 each and telling them to go away and come back in a year.

And so she returned to the world of marketing and ended up working in a company where her legal knowledge was of use. Last year said organisation offered her the chance – via some sort of ‘conversion course’ arrangement – to finally qualify as a solicitor and so (hopefully), if all goes well, that is now what will happen later this year.

Secondly, the other weird circumstance about her stay is/was that my boiler packed up over the weekend and so my gaff has neither any heating nor hot water to offer. The earliest that any plumber I managed to contact could come to attend to the problem was later this afternoon (Wednesday).

As a result, last night – no offence to me intended and none taken – Grace decided to move on to stay with a girlfriend of hers on the other side of town a day early, where at least some central heating and a warm shower would be on the list of available facilities.

However, none of the above is the main subject of my post today.

On Monday evening Grace and I went for dinner together for a catch-up natter after a rather eventful 2018 for us both.

It was a great evening with loads of gossip, fun and reminiscing.

One of the topics that came up was that of parenting.

With commendable humility, my own father frequently and openly confessed to worrying all his life that he’d been a lousy parent but was actually regarded by his offspring as a pretty good one.

By that I mean to refer to the fact he was always ‘there for us’ whenever we might need him, even though he spent a large part of his career travelling away in the UK or abroad (which was no particular hardship for us, simply on the ‘when the cat is away the mice do play’ principle).

On Monday night I waxed lyrical on the theme that as humans we continue to learn all our lives, whatever the circumstances.

For those of us lucky enough to become parents, one of the joys to be had is actually learning from our kids.

The example that I gave was of the occasion when – in her sixth form at boarding school – Grace rang me up one day and asked if I’d like to attend a school play being mounted with a local boys’ school for which she was the lighting director.

I said yes and on the night in question sat in a hushed audience as the lights went down, the curtains opened … and there was Grace, as one of the four main actors – two couples who had gone to stay in a haunted house.

The evening was a revelation to me about ten minutes in when I suddenly appreciated that she was performing (acting) quite well. Not at a level that was ever going to challenge Meryl Streep for an ‘Best Actress’ Oscar (obviously) … but actually ‘acting’ in a proper sense.

I then compared this to my own ability to learn lines at all, let alone deliver them on stage with any degree of skill or art, and realised The Big Lesson Of The Day.

Grace could de facto act better than I could possibly manage – at that point one desperate (decades before) prep school performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which I played ‘the wall’ and uttered my few lines with all the conviction and emotion of a ‘speak-your-weight-machine’ amoeba, for some reason came to me in a recurring nightmare thought as I sat in my rather uncomfortable metal chair in the stalls.

I grew up a lot – both as a parent and a person – that night.

Grace responded with two things she had ‘gained’ from me as her father.

The first was that, though her husband was a poor ‘early riser’ – and deliberately set his alarm clock to ‘snooze’ so that he could enough half an hour of extra relaxation before getting up each morning – as she opened her eyes of a morning, whatever the time, she was immediately wide awake and ‘ready to go’.

The second was the advice I had given her as a young teenager – not that I remembered it(!) – which she said she’d deployed since all her life.

It was that, whenever in life you have what seems like a big or difficult decision to make – when you have finally made it, forget about what caused you to decide what you did.

And don’t ever look back and think about ‘what might have been’ (e.g. if you had, for example, made a different decision). What’s the point in that? Draw a line in the sand and carry on from where you’ve got to. Live in the present – and always go forward. No point at all in looking back.

Even as she was saying all this to me on Monday evening, I was thinking “Hey, actually that’s not bad advice to give someone on how to live their life …”

I just wished I’d followed it in mine!

About William Byford

A partner in an international firm of loss adjusters, William is a keen blogger and member of the internet community. More Posts